By: Tim Niland, Jazz and Blues
Trumpeter Wallace Roney has been leading bands since the 1980’s, specializing in swinging hard bop that takes the progressive hard bop of the 1960’s and brings it into the modern day. He’s got a crack band around him on this album, with Emilio Modeste on saxophones, Oscar Williams II on piano, Paul Cuffari on bass and Kojo Odu Roney on drums. The main group is supplemented on a few tracks by Quitin Zoto on guitar and Lenny White on drums. The team puts together a nice mix of ballads and burners and strings them together to produce a cohesive narrative, beginning with the opening track, “Bookendz.” This is a swinging medium tempo performance with Roney developing a yearning trumpet lead that is well controlled and paced over splashy drums that are punchy and bright. Modeste’s taut nasal sounding soprano saxophone is also featured against the relentless drumming which also powers the section for piano, bass and drums. The ballad “Why Should There Be Stars” has spare and open sounding piano playing setting the stage for some wonderful trumpet playing from the leader. Roney’s ballad playing is very patient, arcing long lines of sound in a longing and lonely manner that is very patient and mature, the sound of an experienced musician pouring himself into a solo. “Wolfbane” goes in the opposite direction, with snappy drumming and the addition of guitar to the mix for a funky and exciting groove. There is a brash entry for saxophone and trumpet, with Roney taking a muscular solo framed against the bass and percussion, before developing the music into a excellent full band interplay, and Modeste moves to tenor saxophone for a supple and lengthy feature, which builds to a strenuous climax. The full band opens together on “New Breed” giving the solid middle of the road feeling with Roney getting a distinctive pinched tone from his horn and creating a solo that soars over light bass and nimble cymbals. The rhythm becomes more anxious as the tenor saxophone approaches, looking to reach out and improvise in a more collective manner. Overall this album worked very well, the band is tight and obviously very well rehearsed and familiar with the material which is catchy and covers a lot of ground. Mainstream jazz fans should find a lot to like in this release.